The same weather system that spawned tornadoes and deadly storms in the central US continued to lash Texas with heavy rain as it crawled east early Friday, putting roughly 20 million people at risk of severe thunderstorms from the South and Midwest to the Northeast.
As the storm moved out of central Texas, it left behind significant flooding that triggered several water rescues in Austin as water levels rose, local officials said.
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Some people yelled for help after they became trapped between a fence and creek in Austin, and one of them required hospitalization for a non-life-threatening injury, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services said on social media.
First responders also received reports of cars piled up in a creek and rescued six people, the EMS tweeted.
Other water rescue efforts involved crews using ropes to assist two people who were unable to move as the water remained high.
The Austin Fire Department also rescued a driver from water after receiving a report a motorist was sitting on top of a car, the EMS said.
In addition to the heavy rain, at least one tornado report was recorded in Tyler, Texas, on Thursday night, a day after officials received more than a dozen tornado reports across Oklahoma, Iowa and Kansas.
Many areas in southeast Texas including Austin, San Antonio and the Dallas-Fort Worth area were under a severe thunderstorm watch that warned of dangerously large hail, damaging winds and the possibility of some tornadoes.
The conditions led to temporary ground stops at San Antonio and Austin–Bergstrom international airports Thursday night. Those areas were under a “life-threatening” flash flood warning, the National Weather Service said.
On Friday, strong thunderstorms may impact parts of the upper Ohio Valley and into lower Great Lakes region as well as the upper Texas coastal plain into lower Mississippi Valley, the Storm Prediction Center said.
Thursday night’s impacts in Texas come after the same storm system generated a dozen reported tornadoes across Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa late Wednesday.
Among the hardest-hit areas was the town of Cole, Oklahoma, where two people were reported dead after the severe weather struck the community of some 600 people, officials said. A third weather-related death was also reported in Oklahoma.
The deaths happened after a strong tornado, with estimated peak wind speed between 150 and 155 mph, struck the town, which sits about 30 miles south of Oklahoma City, according to the preliminary damage survey conducted by officials at National Weather Service with the Norman, Oklahoma, office.
The tornado – rated as a EF3 due to its windspeed– traveled for about 11 miles inside McClain County in about 35 minutes, the preliminary survey determined.
Another tornado packing estimated peak winds of between 130 mph and 135 mph swept across the city of Shawnee in Pottawatomie County, data from the preliminary survey shows. That tornado was rated as EF2.
Meanwhile, an EF2 tornado also struck the town of Etowah, home to some 160 people in Cleveland County, and traveled for about 10.5 miles, the preliminary survey found.
Many areas in Oklahoma experienced some form of severe weather Wednesday, but the Cole and Shawnee areas sustained the most significant storm damages, the state’s Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security said in an update Thursday.
Between 50 and 100 homes were damaged in Cole, and another 100 were damaged in Shawnee, according to the update, though assessments are still ongoing.
“Our county was hit hard and it will take a while for every area to be checked,” the Pottawatomie County emergency management agency said after the tornado struck.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt declared a state of emergency for McClain, Pottawatomie, Cleveland, Lincoln and Oklahoma due to the severe storms and tornadoes.